Negotiating Pluralism in Québec: Identity, Religion, and Secularism in the Debate over “Reasonable Accommodation”

Geneviève Zubrzycki

in Religion on the Edge

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199938629
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980758 | DOI:
Negotiating Pluralism in Québec: Identity, Religion, and Secularism in the Debate over “Reasonable Accommodation”

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Once nicknamed “the priest-ridden province,” Québec is now a strikingly secular place. During the so-called Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, the Québécois dramatically rid themselves of Catholicism, amputating what a new generation of social activists and political figures came to see as a gangrenous limb preventing the healthy development of the nation. Yet religion, it turns out, is present not only in the lives of “others” but also as a skeleton in Québec's closet that is often experienced as phantom limb pain. This became apparent in the debates over the religious practices of cultural minorities, which were at the center of public life from 2006 to 2008. Analysis of the debates reveals that what was at stake was as much about Québec's religious past as it was about its present religious landscape and the challenges it poses for a self-avowed secular society. The Québécois case is also helpful to think about the meaning and stakes of religious pluralism and secularism in contexts very different from that of the United States or France, which offer the prevailing models. Through an analysis of the debates over reasonable accommodation, this chapter shows that Québec is currently trying to find its own way between the French, American, and Canadian models of laïcité, pluralism, and multiculturalism.

Keywords: Quebec; secularism; Catholicism; religious practices; cultural minorities; multiculturalism; laïcité

Chapter.  9434 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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